Thursday, March 29, 2007

5 on a Scale of 1 to 10

Today is a "5." No real reason (except maybe good ol' hormones), but it just is.

It's amazing how things can change over the course of a couple of days! Perspective has a lot to do with it - how you choose to look at the world, as if you're looking out a window. Today, I feel as if I'm looking out at the world from a "garden" apartment window. The glass is a little grimy, and I see shoes walking past on their way to someplace else.

Elijah is one of my back-pocket heroes. I say "back-pocket" because the memory is always in the back pocket of my brain in case I need to refer to it.

I Kings 18 tells of one of the coolest events in the Old Testament, in my opinion. Israel hasn't had rain for a long time. In a duel with the prophets of Baal, Elijah challenges Israel to make a decision: Jehovah or Baal. He sets up two altars - each complete with sacrifice and wood - and he says, whichever god sets the sacrifice on fire is the true God. Now, Baal was the god of fire, so that seemed like a good idea to the other prophets. He lets the prophets of Baal choose their bull and go first, but neither of them gets to light any fire. (Understand that there has been a drought - that's important later in the story).

The Baal prophets dance around, cutting themselves with knives, calling on their god Baal to prove he is the true god by setting fire to their altar. Elijah taunts them, asking "where is your god? Yell louder - maybe he's on a trip. Maybe he's sleeping and has to be wakened." All day this goes on - from morning to afternoon.

Then after the Baal prophets have worn themselves out, Elijah calls the people closer. He repairs the altar of the Lord that had been torn down and sets up 12 stones. He digs a trench around the altar large enough to hold about 14 quarts (or 3 and a half gallons dry measure). He arranges the wood, cuts up the bull, puts it on the altar, and then calls for water. Four jars of water. He has the people empty the water onto the sacrifice, go back and get more water and do it again and again, until the altar is saturated with water and the water is running over the sides and filling the trench.

Then, when it was time for the evening offering, Elijah prayed, "O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are the true God and that you are winning back their allegiance." That was it. No dancing, no cutting, no flailing around. Just Elijah's prayer and his faith.

The Bible says, "Then fire from the Lord fell from the sky. It consumed the offering, the wood, the stones, and the dirt, and licked up the water in the trench." I Kings 18:38. The people fell on their faces and declared, "The Lord is the true God! The Lord is the true God!" Elijah told the people to seize the prophets of Baal, and they took them down to the Kishon Valley and executed them. Elijah went back to the king and told him to prepare for rain. Elijah prayed and the rain came, and Elijah ran ahead of the king's chariot back to the city.

Now that the prophets of Baal had been killed, Elijah got worried for his life, and he ran to the desert in despair. He'd just experience that great victory - a wonderful demonstration of God's power and authority - and he ran away. This is the part that always encourages me: when he ran into the desert, he cried out to God to take his life, and then he slept. The Bible says that the angel of the Lord woke him and told him to eat and drink. He woke up, he saw that there was food, he ate and drank, and he went back to sleep. After he'd slept some more, the angel of the Lord came again and woke him up, telling him to eat or he wouldn't have the strength for his journey. He ate and drank and went further into the wilderness - 40 days and nights - to Mount Horeb, described as the "mountain of God."

That's the cool part. A) Even after all of the triumph and the assurance that he was on the same team as the Lord, Elijah still felt discouraged, even depressed. B) The Lord didn't leave him - even though his feelings weren't in line with his experience. And during that time, God didn't tell him to snap out of it or get treatment. C) The Lord sent someone to take care of his physical needs - food, sleep, water. D) When Elijah got to Mt. Horeb, God didn't chastise him. God showed Elijah devasting wind, landslides, earthquake, fire - but the Lord was not in any of those things. God spoke to Elijah in stillness following the upheaval - and listened and encouraged him, telling him he was not alone.

I'm glad that the same unchangeable God who cared enough about Elijah to send His angel to take care of Elijah's needs to prepare him for what was ahead of him is in charge of things in my life today. Today may be a 5 but maybe that's a sign that I need to sleep, take care of physical things and prepare for the next steps.

No comments: